Athenaeum Library Book Arts Lecture

Art History Lectures

Surrealist Art and its Precursors

Presented by Cornelia Feye


Tuesdays, October 1, 8, 15 & 22, 2019

All lectures begin at 7:30 PM


This four-part lecture series explores the surrealist movement that began in Paris in the 1920s, while also acknowledging its influences from 16th to 19th centuries artists such as Hieronymus Bosch and Francisco de Goya. The original surrealist artists and writers were inspired by Sigmund Freud’s dream analysis and the exploration of the subconscious mind. They were also reacting to the devastation of World War I and revolting against the values of a society that had led to such destruction. Under the leadership of André Breton, surrealists aimed to express themselves without restrictions of reason, moral, or aesthetic considerations. Breton’s death in 1966 left no heir to unite the divergent branches of surrealist artists all over the world and led to the end of surrealism as a unified movement.


October 1 » Early Depictions of the ‘Strangeness of Life’

Artists like Salvador Dali acknowledged the influence of 16th century artists Hieronymus Bosch and Guiseppe Arcimboldo in their work. The surrealists admired Bosch’s depictions of the “strangeness of life.” This lecture will explore the art of these Renaissance painters as well as the influences of Francisco de Goya from the 18th century and Gustave Moreau and the symbolists from the 19th century.


October 8 » From Dada to Surrealism: Paris 1920s

Surrealism grew out of the Swiss Dada movement and many artists made the transition. In 1925, André Breton organized the first group exhibition La peinture surréaliste in the Gallery Pierre in Paris. It included work by Giorgio de Chirico, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Jean Arp, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, André Masson, Man Ray, Jean Tanguy, and Pierre Roy. New members joined the group in 1929: former Dadaist Tristan Tzara, Salvador Dali, filmmaker Luis Bunuel and sculptor Alberto Giacometti.


October 15 » The Spread of Surrealism: Belgium, New York, Mexico

From Paris, surrealism spread to Belgium, where René Magritte became a leading figure. In New York, Marcel Duchamp and Dorothea Tanning represented surrealism at Peggy Guggenheim’s Gallery of the Century among others. In Mexico City, Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera together with a group of exiles from WWII organized and showed surrealist art. Exhibitions sprung up in Belgrade, Cairo, Prague, Brussels, London, and San Francisco. A historical survey at MOMA in 1936, Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, introduced the movement to a wider audience.


October 22 » Surrealist Women Artists

Talented women artists have long stood in the shadow of their famous male peers. This lecture explores the contributions of Leonora Carrington, photographer Dora Maar, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, Leonor Fini, Dorothea Tanning, Remedios Varo, Meret Oppenheim, Gala Dali and others.


Joan and Irwin Jacobs Music Room

Athenaeum Music & Arts Library

1008 Wall Street

La Jolla, CA 92037



Individual tickets: $14 for members / $19 for nonmembers

Series tickets: $48 for members / $68 for nonmembers




Online tickets are subject to ticketing fees.